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Addressing Practical Legal Issues in the Business World

The General Counsel

Most attorneys work in a law firm or otherwise work independently by establishing their own law firm.  A notable example is Bert Fields (above), the well known entertainment attorney who has represented Tom Cruise for many years regarding multiple issues.

But not all attorneys work in law firms.  A growing number of attorneys many of them find employment (and satisfying careers) working in governmental agencies and in private industry.  For example, Halimah DeLaine (above) was appointed last year to the role of General Counsel for Google, Inc.  In a corporate or business environment, the top attorney is given the title of General Counsel, though the title Chief Legal Officer (CLO) is starting to be used in certain circles.

The General Counsel is responsible for conveying legal issues in simple straightforward language that the company’s executives can easily understand.  He or she is often more than just an attorney, and if done properly, that individual is viewed as a key executive in the decision making process in identifying legal issues and ideally present legal and well as sound practical business solutions.  The General Counsel exists in two worlds, legal and business and must be comfortable in both environments.  Smaller companies typically don’t have General Counsels given cost constraints and so they rely on attorneys in law firms who serve in a similar role as an “outside General Counsel” for multiple companies.

Factual Background

For this first Discussion Forum, I want you to place yourself in the hot seat as the General Counsel for a prominent transportation/delivery company, Tom Cruise Delivery Service (“TCDS”).  Your biggest competitors are as follows:

United Parcel Service

FedEx

Amazon Prime Delivery

The business model for TCDS and its competitors are based upon the premise that speed of delivery is key.  Many companies (including law firms) will pay a premium for the prompt (sometimes same day delivery) of packages.  Delivery drivers have to make a lot of deliveries, and they have to do it on-time.  To make those deliveries in the big cities, drivers sometimes have to park where the city doesn’t want them to.  This leads to parking in loading zones, parking for too long a time, or double parking in front of a delivery point.  This results in a whole bunch of parking fines.  In New York City alone, delivery services racked up $106 million in parking tickets in one year (and this was way back in 2006).

Margins are healthy and so are the profits.  Tom Cruise, the Chief Executive Officer for TCDS comes to you as the company’s general counsel.  The cost of these parking tickets is a concern and he would like to avoid them where possible, but at the same time he does not want to change any business practices that will slow down the delivery of time sensitive packages (to do so would translate to a significant loss of business and profit).

Question Presented

In your capacity as TCDS’ General Counsel, how would you respond to Tom Cruise’s question (i.e., what would be your recommendation)?  Please be sure to explain the logic behind your answer.  In addition, I would ask that you also identify the legal and the business aspects of your response (but please focus on the legal aspects of this – I do not want an operations analysis of delivery services – you are the General Counsel here).

Hint

I am not looking for a long term paper, but at the same time I don’t want a two word answer.  A paragraph or two for your initial answer and perhaps a few lines in your two replies will suffice, but please bear in mind it is quality over quantity.

Case Study:

Issue, Rule, Analysis and Conclusion (IRAC)

Background

If you have any desire to go to law school or become a lawyer for Tom Cruise (or even if you don’t), one skill that you will need to develop more than anything else is the ability to write in a clear and concise manner.  The ability to effectively communicate is essential.  One key aspect of effective communication is organization and structure.  For that, attorneys utilize what is called IRAC.  As discussed in the dedicated Canvas Page for Chapter 1 in the textbook, IRAC stands for the following:

Issue

Rule

Analysis

Conclusion

Please go back and review the Canvas Page that discusses IRAC one more time before proceeding further with this assignment.

For your first Case Analysis assignment, we are going to apply IRAC to

White v. Benkowski

.  Please read the December 22, 1967 decision issued by the Supreme Court of Wisconsi (Attached Below)

If you are so inclined, there is a brief video summarizing the background of the case below.  Please note that in order to complete this assignment you will still need to read and understand the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Your Assignment

After reading the Supreme Court decision, please identify the two key issues that the court discussed in its ruling.  To give you a hint, please do not focus on the two questions the trial court presented to the jury.  Once you have identified the two issues, I would ask that you prepare a brief document utilizing IRAC to analyze each issue.  If you have identified the two questions already, you have already determined the I in IRAC.  Please remember that each issue gets its own independent IRAC – in other words your submission will have two IRACs.

The rule, analysis and conclusion can be found within the four corners of the Supreme Court’s ruling.  Everything is in black and white – there is no hiding of the ball.  My objective here is to make sure you understand how IRAC works and how to fill it out.

  
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